Is Sauna Good for Gout? (With Practical Advice and Tips for Relief)

If you have gout, you know how difficult it is to live with. The sauna helps with a lot of things, so can it be your saving grace?

Based on the current scientific findings, there is no evidence visiting a sauna will result in any relief from gout. In fact, sweating can decrease the amount of uric acid excreted in your urine, potentially worsening an occurrence of gout. However, anecdotal evidence shows that lower temperatures and high humidity in steam rooms are best for gout.

Keep reading to learn about how the sauna affects gout!

Can the sauna help with gout?

Gout is beyond painful, so it’s natural to look for relief anywhere possible. 

The current science says that the sauna cannot help with gout. Saunas increase the plasma concentration of uric acid, which causes gout because sweating decreases the amount of uric acid excreted by your urine. Anecdotal reports, however, are promising.

Gout is a complex, common form of arthritis. It’s known for sudden and extreme attacks of pain, usually in the big toe. Attacks can even wake you up in the middle of the night, with your joints so tender that the sheets on your bed feel too heavy.

Symptoms of gout include:

  • Extreme joint pain
  • Discomfort that lingers
  • Redness and inflammation
  • Limited range of motion

Gout is caused by urate crystal accumulation in the joint. High levels of uric acid in the blood can form urate crystals. Uric acid is made when purines are broken down. Purines are found in your body and in certain foods.

Uric acid typically dissolves in the blood. Then it passes through your kidneys and into your urine. But if your body makes an excess of uric acid or your kidneys don’t excrete enough uric acid, it can build up. When uric acid builds up, it forms sharp crystals in a joint that resemble needles.

Risk factors for gout include:

  • Diet
  • Weight
  • Medical conditions
  • Medications
  • Family history
  • Age and sex
  • Recent surgery or trauma

Potential complications include:

  • Recurrent gout
  • Advanced gout
  • Kidney stones

Treatment options include:

  • NSAIDs
  • Colchicine
  • Corticosteroids

You may also be put on medication that prevents complications, such as meds that block the production of uric acid or meds that improve uric acid removal.

Preventative measures can range from choosing healthier beverages to avoiding foods high in purines to exercising and losing weight.

Unfortunately, using the sauna can increase the plasma concentration of uric acid. It’s especially important not to drink alcohol after using the sauna if you have gout, because uric acid levels will increase even more.

Does heat worsen gout?

Saunas are hot! Let’s see what this does to gout.

It’s unclear if a temporary increase in heat worsens gout. However, the risk of recurrent gout increases when the weather gets hotter and less humid.

The risk of recurrent gout is increased with higher weather temperatures and lower humidity.

Does sweating help with gout or reduce uric acid?

Since you sweat so much in the sauna, it’s important to know how this relates to gout and uric acid.

Sweating decreases the amount of uric acid that your urine excretes. It’s important to stay hydrated if you’re sweating a lot to maintain adequate uric acid output, and consume electrolytes to reduce serum uric acid.

Sweating due to exercise decreases urinary uric acid excretion. For this reason, it’s important to stay hydrated in the sauna to counteract this effect. 

Is steam good for gout?

The next logical question is whether or not steam can help gout.

There are reports on online forums of steam helping gout, but the effects of steam on gout have not been studied scientifically.

If you’re comfortable following anecdotal evidence, a steam room may be worth a shot.

Which type of sauna is best for gout?

If you want to use a sauna for gout, it’s important to use the right one!

The steam room is best for gout because of its low temperature and high humidity. High temperature and low humidity can trigger gout. Steam rooms also have the most anecdotal evidence indicating they may be helpful.

Now let’s talk about how to use different types of saunas for gout!

Traditional dry sauna for gout

If you’re a die-hard traditional dry sauna fan, here are some rules to follow!

To use a traditional dry sauna for gout, start out for five minutes at a time on the lowest heat setting and highest humidity. The traditional dry sauna is probably the worst sauna to use for gout because of the high temperature and low humidity. 

Even as a seasoned veteran, it’s recommended not to exceed 20 minutes in a traditional sauna.

To get the most benefits out of a dry sauna, you should stay in for at least 10 minutes at 150°F. Benefits of using a dry sauna include:

  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Relaxation
  • Toxic fluid loss
  • Reduced arterial stiffness
  • Improved endothelial function (cells inside the blood vessels, lymph vessels, and heart)

But since high temperature and low humidity weather can worsen gout, it’s possible that temporary environments of that nature also worsen gout. Definitely start slow, listen to your body, and stay hydrated.

Infrared sauna for gout

Infrared saunas are growing in popularity. So how do you use an infrared sauna for gout?

It’s best to err on the side of caution when using the infrared sauna for gout because the scientific and anecdotal evidence doesn’t line up. Start out at the lowest temperature for only 5 minutes at a time and slowly work up from there.

To get the most benefits out of an infrared sauna such as better blood circulation, increased metabolism, and stress reduction, it’s recommended to go three times a week for 30 minutes per session.

It’s vital to stay hydrated because sweating decreases the urinary output of uric acid, and saunas increase the plasma concentration of uric acid. That’s why you need to start out slowly and see how your body reacts.

Steam rooms for gout

We’ve established that steam rooms are anecdotally the best for gout. 

The steam room has the best anecdotal reviews for gout. It’s still a good idea to start out at five minutes per session at the lowest temperature and slowly increase because the scientific evidence isn’t in favor of saunas.

If you want to see benefits like stress relief and better skin, the goal is to use the steam room three times a week for 15 minutes at a time.

There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence in favor of steam rooms for gout. But it’s still best to be cautious because of the scientific literature. Stay hydrated and see how your body responds.